Following Divorce Orders in Pennsylvania
Every order in a divorce case is backed by the power of the court. When a spouse or ex-spouse refuses to comply with a divorce, there are methods by which the aggrieved spouse and the court can compel a spouse to follow the court’s order.
What Does the Divorce Agreement Cover?
Divorce agreements may cover a wide variety of subjects relating to the dissolution of the marriage, including:
- Child custody
- Child support
- Alimony/spousal support
- Distribution of the marital estate
Reasons Why Orders Are Enforced
A spouse may need to enforce a court order against another spouse when that spouse is not complying with important provisions of a divorce agreement or other order of the court. Common examples of orders that frequently bring about motions to enforce when one party fails to follow the order include child support orders, spousal support and alimony orders, and child custody and visitation orders.
In most states, the most common method for enforcing a divorce decree or other family court order when a party fails to follow the order is the contempt petition. Some states, in the divorce context, refer to the petition as a petition to enforce. Contempt is defined as willfully disobeying an order of the court when the party in violation of the order has the capacity to comply with the court’s order.
A contempt petition is filed as part of the original case that resulted in the decree or order allegedly being violated, usually under the same docket number. As a result, the petition is often heard by the same judge that issued the decree or order at issue. The spouse filing the petition will usually attach the decree or order allegedly being violated, along with documents and other evidence proving the alleged violation, such as bank statements or communication between the spouses, and an affidavit attesting to the other spouse’s violation of the decree or order. The petition will also specify the portion or portions of the agreement or order allegedly not being followed and will request relief from the court, which can take the form of sanctions, an order requiring the violating spouse to pay court costs and legal fees, or an order allowing the moving spouse to seize or garnish property of the violating spouse, such as paychecks, pension benefits, or real property.
The Contempt Process
If a motion for contempt or to enforce is properly filed, the court will schedule a hearing on the motion. The other spouse must be served with the motion and notice of the hearing according to the court’s rules for service. Both spouses will attend the hearing, during which the moving spouse will present his or her evidence and witnesses to prove the other spouse’s violation of the decree or order at issue. The other spouse will also be allowed to present evidence and other arguments to show that he or she is not in violation of the order, or that he or she is not capable of complying with the court’s order.
The court will decide whether the evidence supports holding the other spouse in contempt. The court will issue a ruling that sets forth the court’s findings and consequences to be implemented immediately or if the violating spouse does not come into compliance with the decree or order.
If a spouse is found in contempt, the court can punish him or her. A first offense usually results in a warning. However, the court always retains discretion to order the violating spouse to pay the moving party’s costs and attorney’s fees incurred in bringing the motion. The court may also enter a new order to make up for the spouse’s noncompliance. The court may also enter a lien against the noncompliant spouse’s assets. Finally, in egregious cases the court can order a spouse to serve time in jail.
Contact a Colmar Family Law Attorney for a Consultation About Enforcing Court Orders in Pennsylvania Today
If you are thinking about filing for divorce, or if you have already started the divorce process and are dealing with another matter such as child custody, child support, or division of assets, you need to speak with a qualified attorney. The Pennsylvania family law attorneys at Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg & Gifford, P.C. represent clients throughout Southeastern Pennsylvania, including Newtown, Doylestown, Lansdale, and Norristown. We understand how challenging this time can be for you, which is why we will fight hard to protect your interests, and the interests of your loved ones, throughout the legal process. Call us at (215) 822-7575 or fill out our confidential contact form to schedule a consultation. We have an office conveniently located at 2605 N. Broad St., Colmar, PA 18915, as well as an office located in Newtown, PA.
The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.